A cat is generally very sensitive to changes in its surroundings and could end up becoming over-stimulated by external stressors. They exhibit stress in a variety of ways. They may vocalise excessively with growls or hissing, lash their tails, tense their muscles up and more.
If you see your feline is all stressed up, give them some space. Warning signs to look out for include:
• Tail Lashing
While our canine friends wag their tails to show that they are happy, alarm bells should ring when Puss does the same.
A cat lashing her tail is a signal that she is displeased about something, and is likely to lash it more dramatically as she becomes angrier. Give her some space to cool down, and her tail should return to its usual non-threatening motions.
• Dilated Pupils
As much as dilated pupils give your cat the adorable “Puss in Boots” look, it could also mean that she is over-stimulated.
Large pupils help a scared or unsure cat take in as much information about the environment as possible to better identify threats and dangers. However, her pupils could dilate when she's feeling happy too, so be observant about her surroundings to identify the actual cause of this change.
• Low Growls
Probably one of the most obvious warning signs, growls and hisses should never be mistaken as innocent meows.
They should be taken very seriously, and is how your cat is saying “back off”. Again, give her space and alone time.
• Flattened Ears
Felines flatten their ears when they are ready to fight because it is a way to protect themselves from their opponents' claws and teeth.
So, if you see your kitty with flattened ears and staring at you, be wary, and do not do anything that may provoke her.
• Tense Muscles
It is easy to tell whether Puss is calm or stressed based on how relaxed or tense her muscles are. If she is over-stimulated, they are likely to be rigid and tense, in preparation for that "fight or flee" moment.
• Crouching Position
Similar to your cat's tense muscles, you may find an over-stimulated cat in a crouching position. This will give her an edge in the event she's being attacked, as she will be able to strike quickly and effectively.
Seeing your cat in such a position could equate to her preparing to fight. Be mindful, and avoid anything that may trigger an attack.
*This article was updated on 21 Jan 2021. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com.sg on 12 May 2016.